The Medical Importance of Hydration
It may not be obvious based on appearances, but more than 60 percent of the human body is made of water. It is in every part of the body, from the cells to the organs. People lose water constantly from simple acts such as breathing or from illness or being outdoors in the sun. When this happens, we are depriving our body of this essential substance and therefore must replace it. When the water is not replaced, a person will become dehydrated and eventually ill. For this reason, it is important for people to constantly replenish their body's supply of water by drinking water and other liquids.
How to Stay Hydrated
Consuming water is one of the simplest ways to get and stay hydrated. A common rule that most people are familiar with is the one that recommends drinking eight glasses of water per day. Unfortunately, this is not a rule that all health experts agree upon. Some individuals may require more fluids to prevent dehydration, while others may get by with less. A good way to ensure that one is getting enough water to stay hydrated during an average day is to drink throughout the day, starting with a glass of water upon awakening. People will also want to drink a glass of water with every meal and should carry a water bottle with them to work or as they complete daily tasks. A water bottle is portable and convenient and allows people to take frequent sips of water. People who live active lifestyles that includes sports or intensive workouts will need to drink more water than someone who is more sedentary. In addition, people who are out in the sun for long periods will also need more water to replenish lost moisture and stay hydrated.
Water isn't the only way that people can stay hydrated. If water is not available, people may drink other liquids such as tea, coffee, milk, or sports drinks. Sports drinks are, in fact, a necessity for people who are exercising or playing sports for 60 minutes or longer. They are important because they also contain electrolytes and sugar that the body needs to replace but water alone cannot provide. Eating foods that are high in water content also helps people to stay hydrated. The most common foods that have high water contents are vegetables and fruits; however, broth or soup-based foods are also a good choice.
- Stay Hydrated! (PDF)
- Stay Hydrated in the Heat
- Staying Hydrated
- Hydration: Why Is it So Important?
- Water: Meeting Your Daily Fluid Needs
How Water Benefits Brain Function and the Mind
Water positively affects the brain and its proper function. The brain needs water to for the manufacture of neurotransmitters and certain hormones. It acts as a cushion for the brain and absorbs the shock from falls or other injuries. When people drink enough water, they can think more clearly and it helps to keep their minds sharp. Research has shown that dehydration, or improper intake of fluids, may shrink neurons found in the brain and that a lack of water may inhibit the amount of oxygen that flows to one's brain. A lack of proper hydration may cause people difficulty with focusing or paying attention. Mood is also affected by the amount of water one drinks. When people are dehydrated, they are more likely to feel anger and suffer from feelings of depression.
- Benefits of Water Consumption for Bodily Function, Hydration, and Metabolism (PDF)
- The Water in You
- Why Drink Water? How Water and Health Are Connected
- Even Mild Dehydration May Cause Emotional, Physical Problems
- How Drinking a Glass of Water Can Make Your Brain 14 Percent Faster
How Water Aids Digestion
In order for the body to digest the food that is consumed, it has to break down the food and absorb the nutrients from it. Water aids this process in several ways. First, water helps in the creation of saliva, which is needed to swallow what has been eaten. Water also contributes by adding to the fluids that are breaking down the food. Additionally, it also helps to keep the stools soft to prevent constipation.
- Drink More Water (PDF)
- The Importance of Water (PDF)
- The Importance of Water While Exercising (PDF)
- Water: The Science of Nature's Most Important Nutrient
How Water Benefits Joints
Joints require lubrication to keep them moving comfortably and free of pain. They are normally able to do this courtesy of the synovial fluid that is secreted from the synovial membrane. This membrane, which lines the joints, secretes the fluid for the purpose of lubrication. When a person is dehydrated, however, there is less of the fluid to secrete. Drinking water helps to maintain the necessary level of fluid to keep one's joints properly lubricated. It also helps to keep the joints cushioned from stress that may be caused by impacts such as from sports or extreme exercise. Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water can also help prevent or reduce inflammation by reducing uric acid buildup. A buildup of uric acid crystals in the synovial fluid can result in a type of inflammation that causes severe joint pain called gout.
- Water in Diet
- Fluid Needs
- Importance of Water in the Diet
- Water and Hydration
- Gout and Dietary Recommendations
Weight Loss and Hydration
Water is of great benefit when attempting to lose extra weight. One of the ways in which it is helpful is that it can help create a feeling of fullness when a person drinks a glass before eating a meal. It is also a smart choice over other types of beverages that may contain added sweeteners, which can result in taking in additional calories. Additionally, other drink choices such as milk may contain saturated fat, which can contribute to weight gain and other health problems. Drinking water may also help reduce deposits of fat in the body.
- Water Health Benefits
- Debunking Water Myths
- How Many Glasses of Water Should You Drink a Day?
- Water, the Medium of Life (PDF)